Cannabis, or marijuana, is widely-used in the United States. In fact, within a given year, 17.9 percent of the population aged 12 and older uses marijuana.

Since it is so widely used, people may think marijuana is entirely harmless, but this is not the case. Below, learn about some of the health problems linked to marijuana use.

Marijuana and Health: What the Research Says

Marijuana is perhaps the most widely-debated drug, with some arguing that it is a miracle drug, while others warn that it is deadly. For this reason, it is important to take a look at what the research says about the health effects of marijuana.

Consider the following findings from studies of marijuana use:

  • A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that marijuana use is linked to cough, mucous production, and breathing difficulties, but there was not enough evidence to determine whether marijuana is associated with lung problems.
  • A research review published in JAMA Network concluded that there is some evidence that long-term marijuana use increases the risk of testicular cancer, but there is unclear evidence on the relationship between marijuana use and other types of cancer.

Other research reviews published in CMAJ Open found that there is evidence that marijuana use is linked to the following health-related problems:

  • Mental health issues like psychosis, manic behavior, and relapse of schizophrenia symptoms
  • Incidents related to impaired driving (accidents, injuries)
  • Stroke
  • Reduced lung functioning
  • Changes in brain functioning, and related issues like problems with memory and reduced cognitive functioning
  • Problems with pregnancy and childbirth, such as low birth weight and birth complications

Beyond the effects above, people can become dependent upon marijuana, contrary to popular opinion.

Marijuana and Teens

As noted above, there is evidence that marijuana is damaging to brain functioning and mental health, and teens may be especially vulnerable to these marijuana-related health problems. The body of research shows that marijuana use among adolescents is linked to neurological changes, and these changes may increase the risk of mental health problems in teens.

The Bottom Line on Marijuana

Marijuana may not be as dangerous and addictive as drugs like heroin or methamphetamine are, but that doesn’t mean it is without consequences.

It is possible to become addicted to marijuana, and to experience a range of marijuana-related health problems, such as certain types of cancer, reduced lung functioning, chronic cough, and impairments in brain functioning. For some people, marijuana use may also increase the risk of mental health problems. Marijuana is also harmful for developing babies, and it may be especially damaging for teenagers, whose brains are still developing.

If you have been using marijuana and find that you are unable to stop, despite experiencing consequences related to your drug use, you may have developed an addiction, called a cannabis use disorder. In this case, it is important to seek treatment.

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